Cloud Based Back-up Systems

We’re all storing more and more data on our mobile phones, tablets and laptops. But not everyone has the time to back up all their data? With the advent of cloud backup services, you no longer have to consciously back up your device. You can sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that your data is being backed up by your chosen cloud backup service. Below are just a few of the most used services:

Microsoft OneDrive

OneDrive, formerly known as SkyDrive, is Microsoft’s cloud backup solution. There are apps available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and even Xbox. With OneDrive you get 15GB storage as standard on the free plan, with a further 3GB for turning on camera uploads and a further 500MB for every referral you make (up to a maximum of 23GB). Again, you can store whatever files you like in OneDrive and edit them online or within the Windows Phone office app.

However, this functionality is a bit hit and miss in my experience, depending on which version of Office you originally used to create the file. Microsoft has added a lot more back up functionality to Windows Phone 8.1. Similarly to Apple, the device will back up certain things whilst connected to Wi-Fi and plugged in to a power supply. Again, it won’t do full device backups like iCloud, but it does back up the most important things such as installed apps, call history, contacts (via Outlook), Start screen layout and bookmarks amongst others. Photos and videos also back up if you select to do this during the initial set up or turn it on later on via the settings menu. Extra space for personal use starts at £1.19 per month for 100GB.

On iOS, OneDrive works in a similar way to Dropbox, as it allows you to access all your online data and also gives you the ability to automatically upload all your photos to back them up.

OneDrive is recommended for use by the University as it comes as part of your student email account for free. The information above is regarding OneDrive for personal use but is still relevant to using the student system.



Dropbox is probably the most well-known cloud backup service. It’s been around since 2007 and has apps for all the most popular platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and BlackBerry. And there are even third-party apps available for Windows Phone and Symbian devices - so you can pretty much guarantee that there’ll always be an app for your chosen platform. You’ll only get 2GB of free space when you open your account, which isn’t much, but you can unlock extra storage space in a variety of ways.

For example, you get an extra 500MB (up to a maximum of 18GB) for every referral you make, or an extra 3GB for turning on camera uploads. Additional storage costs from £7.99 per month for 100GB, or if you use certain HTC or Samsung devices, you can also unlock a further 23-48GB for 2 years. Using the app is easy and comes with a variety of sharing options, i.e. you can choose to share a file at a time or entire folders. If you turn on camera uploads the app will automatically back up your pictures and videos; however, if you want to back up any other files you’ll have to do those manually.

For iPhone users, I would highly recommend using Dropbox to automatically upload your camera photos. Until Apple finally releases its iCloud Photo Drive software, Dropbox is a fantastic way of backing up and storing all your photos online without having to remember to plug your iPhone into your computer#



iCloud is the built-in cloud backup service for Apple devices. In terms of usability, it’s seamless, as it’s built into the operating system. With iCloud, there really is nothing to worry about as it literally backs everything up. Depending what you have selected in the iCloud menu, your backups will include photos, videos, settings, app data and even text messages. iCloud backs up your device daily whilst it’s connected to Wi-Fi and connected to a power source.

With the changes to iCloud and iCloud Drive that came with the release of iOS 8, Apple is putting more emphasis on this backup and storage service, as well as making the prices a little more affordable for those who want to upgrade. You still get 5GB free and the pricing for upgrades range from 79p/month for 20GB up to £14.99/month for 1TB.

Considering iCloud will now store every single photo you take on your device, and iOS 8 allows apps access to iCloud Drive for storage and sharing your data, it’s a small price to pay for a great backup service.

One great new feature in the latest version of iCloud is called iCloud Photo Library. This automatically uploads al the photos you take on your iOS device to your iCloud storage so they're available instantly on all your other iOS devices. However, there are still some teething issues in regards to getting this working smoothly. So you may experience some issues such as not being able to upload or access through a Mac and PC. Further software updates will ensure that all the ‘kinks’ and bugs get worked out as soon as possible.



Google uses a variety of different services which all work together to back up your Android device. Most Android devices since Android 2.2 have included a ‘Backup and reset’ section in the settings menu. Contained in here is an option to ‘back up application data, Wi-Fi passwords and other settings to Google servers’. I’d like to say this does exactly what it says on the tin; however, Google is a bit more vague about what it does actually back up for you. If you go in to the ‘Accounts’ section of your Android settings menu and take a look at your Google account, you can see exactly what Google is backing up for you. Depending what you have ticked, your backups may include your calendar entries, bookmarks, contacts, documents, Wi-Fi passwords, background images and more.

However, unlike iCloud, Google doesn’t do full system backups, which can be a little frustrating when you switch devices. Pictures and videos can also automatically be backed up on Android, Desktop and iOS by enabling this through the Google+ app and luckily Google provides you with 15GB of ‘Drive’ storage for this. One of the more interesting features of the Google+ photo backup service is ‘Auto Awesome’. This can enhance your pictures in a variety of ways. For example, it can combine photos taken close together into an animated GIF or combine a series of pictures to make sure that everyone in your picture is smiling. You can purchase extra Google Drive storage (to store whatever you like) from around £1.19 per month for 100GB.

If you're an iOS user, a Google Drive app is available but it cannot be used to back up your phone. However, it is useful for accessing files and photos already on your Google Drive and you can manually upload photos to it if needed.



Box has been around since 2005 and while it may not be as well-known as some of the other cloud services, it does give you more storage than some of the others. Free accounts get 10GB of free storage and the good news is that if you use a Sony handset you’ll get 40GB of extra storage for life. Box is great for file sharing and collaborative work; however it does lack the auto-upload feature of some of the other cloud services. This feature can be added on iOS with the ’Camera Sync App’ and on Android with ‘Photo sync for box’, both of which are available for a few pounds. Additional storage is available starting at around £5.99 per month for 100GB.



Want to run your own cloud server without worrying about storage limits? OwnCloud might be for you. ownCloud can run on pretty much any server or web space that you own but it certainly isn’t for the novice user. I could go into the details on how to install it but it doesn’t exactly make for casual reading, and there are already many tutorials online. If you intend to give ownCloud a go, I’d advise you make sure you do your research first. My own server set up took time and patience, but I’m definitely reaping the benefits now with practically unlimited file sizes, storage space and super-fast upload speeds.


Mcafee LiveSafe Personal Locker

If you are particularly concerned about the security of your documents online, McAfee Personal Locker may be worth a try. Unlike the other options we’ve already looked at, Personal Locker offers just 1 GB of online storage space but the level of security is much higher. This is ideal for storing copies of your personal documents such as Passports or ID cards for example.

When you first install the Personal Locker program on your smartphone or tablet, you are asked to choose a 6 digit PIN which you have to enter every time you open the app. Once you have chosen your PIN, the App then takes a photo of you using your smartphone camera and asks you to read a phrase out loud 3 times. This photo and voice recording are what makes Personal Locker so secure.

When you upload a file to Personal Locker, you have the choice of either Low or High security. If you choose Low then the document can be opened using just the 6 digit PIN. If you choose high then you will need to verify your identity with a photo and voice recording every time you open it. This means that you, and only you, can access your secure information.

If you need to store 1000s of holiday photos online then McAfee LiveSafe Personal Locker probably isn’t for you. However, if you want to make sure your personal documents and information is totally secure then LiveSafe is one of the best applications I’ve used. Personal Locker comes included with a McAfee LiveSafe subscription for around £50 which also provides antivirus software for your PCs, Macs and smartphones so you can be sure that you are doing everything you can to stay safe online


If you’re really not sure which cloud backup service to use, it’s a good idea to start with the one that is made for your chosen platform e.g. iCloud for Apple devices, Google+ for Android, OneDrive for Windows Phone, etc.

If you still have any questions about cloud backup, leave us a comment below or send us an email

Edited By: Joshua Thompson

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